Blindfold Pool: Computer Opponent

This is the fourth blog about Blindfold Pool.  Click Blindfold Pool for earlier blogs about the game.

When you play against a computer player, you want a fair game.  The computer opponent can’t be too much better or worse than you, or the game isn’t fun.

robot playing pool

The computer opponent in Blindfold Pool works like the computer player in Blindfold Bowling.  Based on the skill level you pick, the computer picks a clear shot, and then may or may not make the shot, based on a simple mathematical formula.  The further the shot is, the less likely the computer will make the shot.

If the shot is easy, but the mathematical formula determines the shot was a failure, the computer shoots either too powerfully, or the angle is slightly off.  That too is part of the mathematical formula.

If there’s no clear shot, the computer just shoots into the pack of pool balls, hoping for the best.

As you play the game, you hear the computer announce what his intention is, you hear the shot, the balls knocking into each other, and finally, the result.

Like the other Blindfold games, you can change the name and voice of your opponents, in addition to its skill.  Some of the games even let you set the type of player, such as aggressive or passive, or better at certain types of shots.

The mathematics behind the combined skill and luck factor is pretty easy, but I won’t go into here.  Click to read my other blog about building computer opponents.

You can download the game here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-pool/id1099269929?mt=8

 

 

Blindfold Greeting Card

When I was watching the July 4 fireworks a few months ago, I closed my eyes for a little while to try to appreciate only the sounds, not the visual effects.  The audio environment was as rich as the visual environment, and I thought I should make a game like that.

icon-120

My first idea was to create a fireworks game, where each time you tap on the screen, a different fireworks sound is played.  I suggested this idea to the group of visually impaired game testers, and several of them said they would prefer to use that sound to make a audio greeting card, and send the audio e-card for someone’s birthday.  Thus was borne Blindfold Greeting Card.

I envisioned the app to appeal to several groups.  For the blindness community, it would let them send an audio e-card to someone, and let the recipient appreciate the card the same way as the blind person who created it.  For relatives and friends of visually impaired people, it would let a sighted person customize an audio e-card that is not burdened with a visual description.

When a blind person receives an e-card with a picture, he hears what you wrote in the e-card, and a description of the picture, such as “cute dog in the middle of a grassy field”.  It doesn’t have any of the emotion or impact of what the picture might engender.

With Blindfold Greeting Card, you first pick a sound effect from 20 categories (about 400 sound effects in total), such as fireworks, marching drums, car horn or crackling wood fire.  Then you record your greeting by speaking into the phone.

Blindfold Greeting card merges the sound effect with your greeting, and then lets you send it via email or as a text message.  You can also post it to Facebook, Twitter or any other social network.  Here are examples by three of our testers:

 

 

 

The app is slowing catching on.  It seems like every time someone receives an audio e-card,  they download Blindfold Greeting Card and start sending audio e-cards to their friends and relatives.

Blindfold Sound Search

Blindfold Bird Songs was such a popular matching game that I started getting requests to do a similar game but with animal sounds.

farm-animals

Just like Bird Sounds, Sound Search has two modes: Name That Sound, and Find That Sound.  The first sound pack I created was common animals, such as chickens, dogs, baboons and elephants.

Name That Sound presents two columns: the left column is a sound name, and the right column is the sound.  First you pick an name in the left column, such as “gorilla”, and then you pick a sound from the right column.  If it’s a match, you win 3 points, and the gorilla is removed from both columns.  If it’s not a match, you lose a point.  Level 1 in the game starts with 3 animals to match, and continues through level 25, adding 2 more animals on each level.

Find That Sound starts out with 6 animal sounds, 2 rows of 3 items.  Similar to the memory game concentration, you have to find the match.  For example, the first row would have gorilla, bear and gorilla, and the second row would have dog, bear, dog.  To match the gorilla in the upper left corner, you would have to pick the gorilla in the upper right corner.  Level 1 starts out with 3 animals to match, and continues through level 25, adding 2 more animals each time.

Once the game was working, the testers suggested adding more animal sound packs, so I created a Fun Common Animal pack, where some of the animals given different sounds (such as different dog barks).  The Animals of Asia sound pack includes camels, orangutans, dingos, leopards and dozens of other exotic animals.

I released the app, and was immediately deluged with more sound pack requests.  I added an Everyday Sound Pack, including sounds like a toaster popping or a garage door opening, A National Anthem Sound Pack, with anthems from dozens of countries, and a Musical Instrument Sound Pack, ranging from a piano to a tabla to a singing-saw.

If you have ideas for more sound packs, let me know.  You download the game at: Blindfold Sound Search.

Blindfold Dealer Poker Games

About a year ago, I talked about why building a poker game is difficult – poker is a multi-player game, and if there are no other players online to play with you, you can’t play.  Unlike poker apps built by the Las Vegas Casinos, there aren’t millions of visually impaired poker players ready to play.

poker hand and chips

I first created Blindfold Video Poker – it emulates Las Vegas style video poker machines.  One fan wanted more of a poker experience, so he sent me a link to an online poker site. At this site, instead of playing poker against other players, you play against a computer dealer with very strict rules, in one of 7 different games.

For example, in Three Card Poker, you start by making an initial bet.  Next you and the dealer are dealt three cards each, face-down.  After you look at your cards, you can either fold and lose the bet, or bet the same amount again.

Then you and the dealer show your cards.  If your hand is better, you win.  If the dealer’s hand is better, you lose.  If you won, and you had a good hand (like 3 of a kind), you can win several times what you originally bet.

There are two  side bets you can make in this game that makes it more interesting.  Regardless of who won, if you win one of the side bets, you can get a lot more money.

The side bet called “Pair Plus” pays you (even if you lost to the dealer) if you have a pair or better in your hand.  The best payout on Pair Plus bets is 40 to 1 for a straight flush.

The side bet called “6-Card Bonus” combines your three cards with the dealer’s three cards, and the best 5 cards out of those 6 cards determines the payoff.  A royal flush pays off at 1000 to 1.

When playing Three Card Poker included in Blindfold Video Poker, you must consider about 3 different strategies at once: beating the dealer, winning the Pair Plus bet, and winning the 6 Card Bonus bet.  We’ve added several Dealer Poker games like Three Card Poker to the Video Poker game, and we’ll be adding more.

Click to download the game:  Blindfold Video Poker

 

 

Blindfold Games: Braille #3

We looked at several ways to make Braille Spin and Solve easier for people just learning braille.  For example, we thought we could vary game difficulty by varying the number of contractions in a word.

braille finger reading braille text

Some words, like CANDY, have only one contraction, but other words, like ABBREVIATIONS, has two contractions in its contracted form.  It is quite difficult to write programming code to determine the number of contractions in the contracted form, since it’s not always clear which dot patterns belong to each contraction.

Speaking again with the braille teachers, we decided to break out the complexity of the game based on the following:

  • One full word contraction, such as “AF” for “AFTER”.
  • Only one of the words in the phrase being contracted and it contains only one contraction, such as CANDY in the phrase CANDY IS DANDY, BUT LIQUOR IS QUICKER.
  • Only one of the words in the phrase is contracted, but that word can contain multiple contractions, such as the word I’M BAFFLED, but only the word “BAFFLED” would be contracted.
  • Up to two words with contractions.
  • Up to 3, 4, or 5 words with contractions.
  • No limit to the number of words with contractions.

Now that the game player can pick her level of difficulty, we had to make it even easier to enter both letters, vowels, and dot patterns.

While the game does work with a braille display, we found most users do not have a braille display connected to their iPhone or iPad.  To enter a dot pattern, such as dot 1,2,3,4,6 for the fragment “AND”, you simply type the dot character, and the digits 1,2,3,4 and 6.  To guess the full word CANDY, you would enter the letter “C”, dot, 1,2,3,4,6, and the letter “Y”.

With those changes, everyone seemed to enjoy the game, and the game is gaining popularity amongst braille teachers at many of the schools for the blind.

Blindfold Games: 7 Tiny Words

Blindfold Word Games, which includes Hangman, Word Flick (similar to Boggle), Word Ladder and Unscramble, has built quite a following.  Recently, people have been asking for more games, and the first one I decided to tackle was 7 Little Words.

Seven Little Words is a game where the puzzle board is 20 squares laid out in 5 columns and 4 rows as seen here:

7 words grid

 SL  ORI  RED  EAD  IM
 FLU  RH  GIB  TAR  NE
 CKE  NS  TTO  RAL  DUN
 LLS  BU  DE  CHE  SME

For each word, there’s a definition given, and you need to find that word by combining several word fragments together.  For example, in the above puzzle board, the definition “detects with one’s nose” would be the word SMELLS, by combining SME in the lower right corner with LLS in the lower left corner.

The game was fairly easy to create, since I already had a dictionary component that I’ve used in other games, including word ladder, and breaking up a word into different parts is rather complex.

If you have 7 words, and you want to break them into pieces to generate 20 word fragments, each fragment needs to be between 2 and 4 letters long.  Ideally, no fragment should give away the word, so you must break up the fragments differently from how the word is pronounced.  You also have to handle conditions where breaking up all of the words ends up generating more than 20 fragments, so you have to go back and find a different combination.  And you need to handle the condition where you have less than 20 fragments, and have to fill it in with useless fragments that don’t generate a alternate solution for the word definition.

Once I completed building that program, the rest of the game went quite smoothly.  You navigate by flicking up, down, left and right, and you select a fragment by double tapping.  Hints come in 3 varieties: the first letter of the word, the first fragment of the word, or the solution.  Like other games, you can post your scores to Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

Blindfold Games: Braille #2

Last week, I described why we picked Blindfold Spin and Solve as the starting point for a braille contractions game.

braille for words but, have, go, like

Blindfold Spin and Solve has over 12,000 phrases, such as “A BLESSING IN DISGUISE”.  To prepare the game to use contracted braille, I created a dictionary of all words in the phrases – about 8,000 of them – and used software created by Duxbury Systems to convert the word to its contracted form.  Thanks to Neal and several people at the Hadley school who helped with the conversion.

Next we had to come up with a set of rules on how to play the game.  In Blindfold Spin and Solve, you can either buy a vowel, or spin the wheel to determine your prize, and then guess a letter.  You can also guess the entire phrase.

In Braille Spin and Solve, you can buy a dot pattern, a vowel, or spin the wheel to determine your prize, and then guess a letter.  You can also guess the entire phrase.

As you swipe from word to word, the game tells you how many letters in the uncontracted word, and how many cells in the contracted form. If you remember from the prior blog, the contracted form of the word “CANDY” is the letter C, the dot pattern for the fragment “AND”, and the letter Y.  As you swipe on the word CANDY, the game tells you the contracted form has 3 cells, and the uncontracted form has 5 letters.

The game also gives you hints to make it easier.  If you guess a letter that’s not in the contracted word, but is in the uncontracted word, it tells you.  With the contracted form of the word “CANDY”, if you guess the letter “N”, the game tells you that the letter “N” is in the uncontracted form of the word, but it’s not in the puzzle.

We released the first version of Braille Spin and Solve to beta testers who taught braille, and they liked the general direction of the game.  However, they said it was way too hard, and requested that the game be easier for most people.

Blind Abilities Podcast: Who won the race?

Blind Abilities presents this follow up interview with Project Starfish after their successful completion of the first ever Blindfold Racer Championship.

Championship Logo

Join Jeff Thompson and Pete Lane and their guests, Nazreen, Labisha and Karl,  as they break down the challenges and achievements of this unique worldwide competition. The challenge spanned  60 countries and thousands of participants in the first undertaking of its kind in the blindness community. Hear about the workings of this huge undertaking and the true sense of community that it yielded.

Also, learn more about Project Starfish and how it might provide meaningful  career opportunities for ambitious and eager individuals.

Blindfold Games: Braille Spin & Solve

When I was invited to talk to a group of people at the Hadley School for the Blind, two people suggested I create a game that uses braille contractions.

braille alphabet

In braille, there are 6 dot positions, where each letter corresponds to a different combination of dots.  For example, the letter “A” is dot position 1, and the letter “R” is dot positions 1,2,3 and 5.  Because braille takes up much more space than printed letters, books may be 5 to 10 times as large.

To solve that, contracted braille offers a shorthand for commonly used words or word fragments.  The single word “AF”, represented by the braille dots for the letter “A” followed by the braille dots for the letter “F” translates to the word “AFTER”.  The braille dots 1,2,3,4 and 6 translates to the fragment “AND”, which can be used in the word CANDY.  The contracted braille for CANDY is: dots 1,4 for the letter “C”, dots 1,2,3,4,6 for the fragment “AND” and the dots 1,3,4,5,6 for the letter “Y”.

The ideas was to convert one of the Blindfold Games to accommodate braille contractions. The first step was to determine the purpose of the game.  Should it be a teaching tool, or a practice tool?

I talked with several people active in promoting and teaching Braille, and we concluded that a practice tool would be preferred  over a teaching tool, since each school for the blind uses their own curriculum, and each teaches concepts in a different order.  The target audience would be people who already learned braille (either UEB or AEB), and simply want to practice their skills.

We looked at the 50 Blindfold Games that are available on the iPhone and iPad, and concluded that either Blindfold Word Games or Blindfold Spin and Solve would be the most appropriate.  Since so many people enjoy Spin and Solve – a variant of Wheel of Fortune – we chose Spin and Solve.

Next time – converting 12,000 phrases to braille.

Blindfold Games: User Guides now online

A friend from down under suggested I put many of the user guides online, since he found it easier to read a user guide from his PC instead of his phone.  This way, he can use his braille display to read the user guide, or listen to the user guide with a screen-reader, at the same time as he is playing the game.

User guides for almost  all of the 50 games are available at this link:

Blindfold Games User Guides

If you have ideas for more games, please contact me.